Cross platform formats for text: which one is the most portable?
Thread poster: Andrea Re

Andrea Re  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:20
English to Italian
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Oct 26, 2009

Hi there,

Assuming I have a text file in format X coming from computer A and I have to manipulate said file. Then I need to send the new file to computer B.

Assuming that I don't know/cannot know anything about computers A and B (Mac, Windows, Linux, something else) and that I can choose format X (.doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt, ecc), which one is the format that makes sure the image I see on my screen or the screen of computers A or B are the same?
Bear in mind that file in format X is vary plain... it is just text and spaces, no indentations, no tabs, no pictures, nothing fancy. One important aspect is, for example, that I must make sure the margins are such that the number of characters in each line does not exceed a value C.
I have tried a few things and, to my amazement, noticed that what I see changes moving from Windows to Mac, from NeoOffice, to Word, ecc.
Is there a way/program/format to make REASONABLY sure that the formatting of the document stays the same?
Going back to my earlier post on Cyrillic and Hebrew fonts (still searching, btw), there is a big difference between NeoOffice and Word and I cannot read at all a document using these fonts on Mac... which version is the one that the writer intended?
The solution would be a .pdf... but then the text needs to be uploaded onto the internet as text:(

Hope I managed to make myself clear...

Andrea

[Modificato alle 2009-10-26 15:08 GMT]


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DrAT2  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 00:20
English to French
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two suggestions: .txt and .odt Oct 26, 2009

Hello,

I think .txt is so simple it can be read on pretty much any platform
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Text_file#.TXT)

Also, there is the .odt format used by the program OpenOffice.org, which is a cross-platform office suite. Though I am not sure about Mac support of OpenOffice.org


I hope this helps
Titus


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
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Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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My guess Oct 26, 2009

Andrea Re wrote:
Assuming that I don't know/cannot know anything about computers A and B (Mac, Windows, Linux, something else) and that I can choose format X (.doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt, ecc), which one is the format that makes sure the image I see on my screen or the screen of computers A or B are the same?


Microsoft Word DOC file saved as Word 97 compatible.


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
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Member (2009)
English to Spanish
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Internet text Oct 26, 2009

Hi you mention that the text will be uploaded onto the internet as text, now this is not very clear but I take it you mean it will be part of a web page and not displayed as a PDF or separate download.

If the text is going to be a in web page, I take it you mean to say the "text" you create will be displayed on an internet page as opposed to the "file" you create.

If you are displaying text as part of a web page the text has to be written into the html, and the html, css or some other code will take care of the position and margin and how the text is displayed, so in theory all you have to do is send the text and the webmaster will copy that text onto his web pages.

If you are actually displaying the file you created I don't understand why they did not tell you which format they wanted it in, as that would have been the logical thing if what was displayed was your text as opposed to your file, so I really think they will just use the text. In fact you saying you are restricted in the amount of characters fits into the webmaster will copying your text into their code.


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Andrea Re  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:20
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More info Oct 26, 2009

Alex Lago wrote:

Hi you mention that the text will be uploaded onto the internet as text, now this is not very clear but I take it you mean it will be part of a web page and not displayed as a PDF or separate download.

Yes indeed... no .pdf involved (too easy otherwise...)



If the text is going to be a in web page, I take it you mean to say the "text" you create will be displayed on an internet page as opposed to the "file" you create.

Yes


If you are displaying text as part of a web page the text has to be written into the html, and the html, css or some other code will take care of the position and margin and how the text is displayed, so in theory all you have to do is send the text and the webmaster will copy that text onto his web pages.


Yes indeed... the only problem and I don't know the full story... for now I have been sent .doc files and they want them back in .doc format. I wonder if they themselves appreciate the implications of different computers, font, operating systems, etc.

One more thing, the original text is not simply a series of sentences with a carriage return now and again. Instead they have created some fake indentation using the space bar and splitting the sentence pressing RETURN at the appropriate point.

....


As I type I am thinking... you are probably right... if I set on my PC (or whatever) that a line is, say, 76 characters long the information SHOULD be preserved if I set it like taht at the other end... The problem could be non Latin alphabets as there seem to be a LOT of discrepancies and if we don't have the same font at both end... there could be problems.



If you are actually displaying the file you created I don't understand why they did not tell you which format they wanted it in, as that would have been the logical thing if what was displayed was your text as opposed to your file, so I really think they will just use the text. In fact you saying you are restricted in the amount of characters fits into the webmaster will copying your text into their code.


Yes, see above...
I am trying to make some sense of all this (I didn't even know there was a problem until recently). Ideally I would like to tell the client what to do, so that we won't have problems down the line.


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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:20
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In fact, you mention quite different aspects Oct 28, 2009

Hope I managed to make myself clear...


Not fully to me at least because I cannot understand which condition is critical to you.

which one is the format that makes sure the image I see on my screen or the screen of computers A or B are the same?


None does, because it’s not only the format but some other conditions, such as availability of certain fonts. For example, if you prepare a document with Times New Roman (one of Microsoft core fonts common for Windows) and save it to .doc, .docx, .rtf, .odt or any other similar format, chances are that your counterpart in Linux will see it different, because Linux distros (except for openSUSE and maybe a couple of others) don’t include this font. There are equivalents available such as FreeSerif from the FSF, Liberation Serif that are very-very close to Times New Roman but are not identical in metrics.


Bear in mind that file in format X is vary plain... it is just text and spaces, no indentations, no tabs, no pictures, nothing fancy.


For only the above, one could choose .doc (Microsoft Word 97-2003) or .rtf. But:

One important aspect is, for example, that I must make sure the margins are such that the number of characters in each line does not exceed a value C.


This actually brings the issue out of the scope of different formats. It’s rather the question of the tool you and your counterpart(s) use. If the above condition is critical, it leaves you little choice but plain text encoded in Unicode (UTF-16 or UTF-8) and processed with a text editor (not a word processor!) capable of limiting the line size (wrapping the text) to X chars. Such text editors are actually numerous.

[Edited at 2009-10-28 07:35 GMT]


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Andrea Re  Identity Verified
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Such us? Oct 28, 2009

esperantisto wrote:

Hope I managed to make myself clear...



Not fully to me at least because I cannot understand which condition is critical to you.



Sorry about that:( I am trying to understand it myself.


This actually brings the issue out of the scope of different formats. It’s rather the question of the tool you and your counterpart(s) use. If the above condition is critical, it leaves you little choice but plain text encoded in Unicode (UTF-16 or UTF-8) and processed with a text editor (not a word processor!) capable of limiting the line size (wrapping the text) to X chars. Such text editors are actually numerous.

[Edited at 2009-10-28 07:35 GMT]


Yes, I think this is the core issue... That would mean I can use something like notepad on a PC or Text Edit (I think) on Mac...
I am going to experiment and see...

Andrea

______________________________________________
UPDATE:
Just tried TextEdit, but it does not allow to set the max number of characters per line:( I thought it did, but alas I was wrong:(:(

[Modificato alle 2009-10-28 15:06 GMT]


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Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 01:20
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Use only the basics Oct 28, 2009

RTF and HTML (full page, i.e. the main file with the content folder) and ZIP them.

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Andrea Re  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
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Have compared Word and NeoOffice Oct 28, 2009

The same document with the same font, same margins same (apparently) everything, was ever so slightly different: I have managed to find one short word in a different line.

Sergei, what do you mean? Save as ... and then zip for e-mailing? What program should one use to open/save them??

[Modificato alle 2009-10-28 15:06 GMT]


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
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Dutch to German
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non-proportional font Oct 28, 2009

Andrea Re wrote:

The same document with the same font, same margins same (apparently) everything, was ever so slightly different: I have managed to find one short word in a different line.


Sorry if that's obvious anyway, but you need to use a non-proportional font for this to work.


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Andrea Re  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:20
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I was using Courier... Oct 28, 2009

efreitag wrote:

Andrea Re wrote:

The same document with the same font, same margins same (apparently) everything, was ever so slightly different: I have managed to find one short word in a different line.


Sorry if that's obvious anyway, but you need to use a non-proportional font for this to work.


... which is supposed to be of fixed width, but still...:(

Besides, even if I had chosen a non fixed width font, I would have expected the pages to be identical... but obviously I was wrong.

Andrea

[Modificato alle 2009-10-28 15:25 GMT]


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